We find it troubling that a federal agency has cited a Capitol contractor for several serious violations, including an airborne dust known to cause cancer.
The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Chicago-based Bulley & Andrews Masonry Restoration LLC, which is overseeing the restoration of much of the Capitol's exterior stone work.
Acting on a complaint, OSHA performed an unannounced inspection of the work site, finding four serious violations.
Perhaps the most troubling of the violations has to do with standards for an airborne dust — crystalline silica — that results from chipping, cutting, drilling or grinding stone. It's classified as a lung cancer-causing agent. It also can cause a condition called silicosis when scar tissue forms in a person's lungs, according to OSHA.
OSHA also found Bulley & Andrews had violated two standards on occupational noise exposure — for either not taking feasible measures to control noise past acceptable sound levels or not providing employees with protective equipment if those measures did not work; and for not administering "an effective hearing conservation program" when noise exceeded acceptable sound levels.
The total fine for all three violations, if it stands after the appeal, is a mere $19,890 — a small tap on the wrist for a nearly $29 million job.
Contractors are in business to make money. But cutting safety corners endangers not only their own workers, but potentially the public as well.
For the alleged violations, the fines should better match the offense.
Meanwhile, we hope area contractors shun the desire to emphasize profits over safety — not because of a fine, but because it's the right thing to do.